A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: hennaonthetrek

The Hurdle of finding things to do in Krakow

sunny 26 °C

Sunday

Last night after looking into weather forecasts and cost of flights (too hot in Prague where Toni would have liked to go and too expensive, almost 1 000e flights per person, to Dublin what I would have preferred) we ended up booking flights to Poland.

This morning we packed and never have it been so easy! We would be just couple of days so there weren’t much to pack. Just one small backpack, basically toiletries, one set of clothes and passport. ANd of course Yatzy and deck of cards.
My brother took us to airport and we were off again!

At the hotel our room got up-grated since they had some booking issues, which, we naturally didn’t mind a bit.
Since booking of this trip was so sudden, I didn’t really know much about Krakow or what to see or do here, so this evening we just went to a restaurant and a little stroll around. There were much more people here than I had anticipated. Obviously other knew about Krakow even if I didn’t!

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At the Main Market Square

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At the Main Market Square

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At the Main Market Square

Monday

This morning I had an only inkling of what I wanted to do. One thing was to see the dragon the city was famous for, Smok Wawelski.

To get to the den you needed to walk up to Wawel Castle and buy a ticket either from the ticket office or from the booth which was on top of the den. The day was hot and the booth was outside without shade so we opted to buy our tickets from the office. We also got tickets to visit the tower where we went firs but that wasn’t worth it in my opinion. The windows were teeny tiny and you couldn’t see almost anything from the tower so basically it was a walk up the stairs and then back down. With many other people. If you want to go, think of it as a functional exercise, that’s what I did.

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On our way to the dragon

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On our way to the dragon

Since we had the tickets, we were able to walk in front of the line and walk down to the dragon’s den without too much wait in the sun. Under the castle it was pleasantly cool and the den was litted nicely, albeit smaller than I had anticipated. But bigger than what Toni thought! Walking out from the den there was statue of the dragon which breaths real fire. The day was sunny and hot so we didn’t stay to see it, even when I read from the online that there would be even an app where you can buy the dragon to breath fire!

According to folklores fierce dragon moved under the Castle and demanded to be fed. If the people wouldn’t bring him food, it would devour them instead. So, the King Krak (founder of Krakow city) promised a bounty for the man who would slay the beast. Many tried and failed, until brave and handsome shoemaker Skuba. Not being a soldier nobody took him seriously, he didn’t have any weapons nor armor but he was armed with his wit. Setting to the task he filled a sheepskin with hay and sulphur which he took to the dragon’s den. The hungry beast ate the snack that was brought to him and the sulphur started to burn inside him causing him to breath fire. He drank from the Vistula River trying to quench it which cannot be done with water, obviously, and according the story, dragon exploded and the city was free and Skuba became a hero.

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Dragons Den

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Dragons Den

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Dragons Den

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Dragon

At this point the difference between me and my travelling partner became obvious. It was still quite early, just little after midday, and I haven’t planned anything for us to do after the Smok Wawelski. I am quite happy to wander aimlessly looking around, so I suggested that we could go and find us some nice café and see what we would see on the way. Toni said that there were café’s in the Old Town around our hotel but I didn’t want to go that way. Why would I since we just came from there? Nothing new to see there, I wanted to go to the opposite direction. So, there we went. There was a path beside the river which we followed for a while before I steered us away from it and towards to city. At this point we had passed couple of restaurant boats and pubs. In which next everyone of them Toni asked that why wouldn’t we go in there. Well, I was in a look for icetea, not beer and we have walked all of few minutes and haven't really seen anything yet so I kept going. And he kept to his questions.

I wonder if the trait to aimless wander is only in those people who doesn’t have any sense of direction? I am use to getting lost and ending up in the places I wasn’t supposed to be in first place but with his immaculate inner navigation system Toni isn’t. I was starting to think that aimless wanderings might be best to do alone.

In the end, we did find a very nice place, where all the tables were outside in the garden. And then started the “Whats next” questions. So, I was forced to do something I don’t really like doing during day out on a holiday. Use my phone other than photography. My good friend google came up with few options and after we finished our beverages (and very delicious lemon cheesecake!) we steered in to the bus stop and on the look for one of the four artificial Mounds of Krakow.

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Cafe we ended up in

From the bus we hopped off and walked straight in to the Wolski Forest. There had been some signs to warn about wildboars so I was a bit vary. The path was bit tricky to find and I wasn’t 100% sure we even were in the right place but as I said before, I don’t mind getting lost. Luckily, we didn’t meet any of those boars and after walking up a very steep hill we finally founded our selves at the bottom of Pilsudski’s Mound. And we continued our upward journey to the top.

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Entering the woods

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Wolski Forest

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Wolski Forest

Making artificial mounds are Cracovian tradition dating in to the pagan times which was revived when Kościuszko Mound was made in early 19th century. In 1934 building of another mound had been decided and when one of Polands beloved leaders, Józef Piłsudski died, it was built to honor him. This mound has soils from every battlefield polish warred during WW2 which is quite fitting considering Piłsudski’s history being a Military leader. The Mound is 111m wide and 35m high.

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Mound too big for a one photo

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Mound too big for a one photo

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Mound too big for a one photo

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Toni on the way to the top

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Nearly there

Spectacular scenery is greeted to those who walk the paved path on top of this hill. The park where the mound is situated seemed to be popular and we weren’t alone at the top nor on our walk back to the bus stop. Walking to find bus to take us back to Krakow we were on the same mind that we wouldn’t take the same path back but walked to different direction. Walking on that side of the forest was like walking in Jurassic Park. The Zoo was near and the noices the animals were making had a large impact on the atmosphere!

Back at Krakow we found restaurant to eat in, and the shrimp pasta I had was wonderful! Toni ate pizza (more about that later). To my disappointment they had run out of pannacotta and that made me to surrender to the charms of many of the candy stores they had in here! I was meaning to buy just a few candies to appease my craving for sugar but I ended up with a huge bag! Needless to say, that I didn’t manage to eat all even with Toni’s help, hah.

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Candy store

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Candy frogs, every little girls dream

Tuesday

Today everything was opposing us. Salt Mines both of us wanted to see were full, we should have booked the trip who knows how much in advance. I had two museums that interested me, Underground Museum in the Main Market Square was closed and Toni wasn’t that keen on the Manggha Museum. The Old Movie theater I find Kino Pod Baranami didn’t have anything showing that interested us. And the weather was as stable as Toni’s stomach at the moment. Did I mentioned that Tonis pizza yesterday was hot? As in spicy hot (not hot in temperature-wise) and he was joking yesterday what that would do to his tummy. Well, it didn’t agree with it, that’s for sure. We waited for a while but in the end, he suggested that I should go explore without him. So, I made outline of a plan, promised that if he wants, he can eat rest of the candies and off I went.

My plan..Well near our hotel was Galeria Plakatu, Kracow Poster Gallery which I thought could be cool, and also somewhere close by were Museum of the Living Butterfly. My navigation system malfunctioned, which was only expected and I never found the Galeria Plakatu even it supposed to be less than half kilometer away.

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This kind of things I see when I get lost

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This kind of things I see when I get lost

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This kind of things I see when I get lost

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This kind of things I see when I get lost

Butterfly Museum I did find, partly because there were guy promoting it on the street. They had ticket office which also sold tickets to Mirror Maze and I though why not, since I didn’t have any real plans. I went to the Mirror Maze first and it was fun as long as it took for me to realize how small it was. And that there, weren’t separate exit, you exited from the same gate you went in. That was quite a bummer. Odd was also, when I asked the entrance to the Butterfly place, I was told that walk this same street couple hundred meters. It wasn’t even in the building next to it but several street corners away! To be honest I have to say that the butterfly museum was sad and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. In this small hot room, were several butterflies, flying seemingly free, couple terrariums with lizard in them and few birds. Yes, you read correctly. Birds, flying free, with all those butterflies around. Several butterflies had torn wings to proof it! That was money wasted and straightly in to the very wrong pockets..

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Sad but pretty butterflies

Luckily rest of my day went better even if it did start pouring rain and I got quite peculiar (in the bad way) service at the café. I went in to one of the nicest looking cafeterias to get out of the rain. And wasn’t only one with the same idea! I was a bit peckish too and decided to have one of the items from the showcase with my coffee. I said item because I didn’t really know what it was what I wanted, and there weren’t any labels in sight, I just knew it looked scrumptious. So, I went to the counter and told the girl working there that I would want that thing from the showcase and pointed in that direction. They had two showcases and the one that had my scrumptious-item was of course the one further away. And what was the waitresses reaction to my polite order? She said not so politely, “Everything there is haves a name”. I was flabbergasted and pondered for a while if I should say to her that if I would know the name, I would indeed order it by it, but came to a conclusion that it wouldn’t change a thing and just waved her to follow me and pointed again the item I wanted. Her another flabbergasting remark was the name, “Fruit in a cup”. Photo below of my, indeed very scrumptious nibble, but do you see any fruits in it?

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Fruit in a cup??

Even if I had just waited the rain to stop in cafeteria a for while, after it decreased in to an drizzle I went in for a look for another. This one I had tumbled upon on my search for things to do in Krakow. The rain had scared most of the people inside so even the weather being gray in light drizzle now and then, the couple kilometers walk to Pub Eszeweria was very enjoyable. Pub Eszeweria was said to be nondescripting from the outside and very atmospheric inside. That proofed to be true! Walking in ordinary looking doorway and into dimly lit interior you could have walked straight to beautiful outside garden which, doe to the weather, I opt not to sit in. I stopped to order beer and went to sit on a blush armchair near the window. I enjoyed the view to the garden without being in mercy of the unpredictable rain I had encountered today. I had my Kindle with me so after the first beer I ordered second one and truly savored the afternoon by myself. I finished reading travel related book called Kamikaze Kangaroos which tells about 20 000 mile road trip around Australia and started another one, book 2 of Witcher saga (appropriate the author being polish).

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My kind of place

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My kind of place

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My kind of place

Alas, all good thing must come to an end, so was this, and it was time for me to get something to eat. I was feeling too lazy to read reviews online and find a restaurant that way, so I just headed out and started to walk towards my hotel. As I suspected there were restaurants everywhere and I chose one based on the name. Kogel Mogel sounded fun to my ears so I went inside. It was maybe a bit posh to my liking but I was already inside and I stuck to my guns, the name was funny! I sat table near the window to be able to look people coming and going. I wanted to try something traditional so I ordered pierogi, they are these small pastries filled either with something savory or something sweet and are usually served as a starter. So was in this time but I guessed correctly that the portion was big enough to eat as main dish too. My pierogis was filled with meet and served with mushroom sauce and I had excellent red wine with it.

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Pierogi and wine

Toni, that lazy bugger (said with all the love and tease that only girlfriend/spouse can muster, hah!), had sent me a text earlier if I could come back via Burger King so after my delicious polish dinner, I went in search of junk food for Toni and dessert (Oreo Shake) for me.

Next morning it would be already time to go home. Albeit both of us were so intrigued by those Salt Mines that perhaps we will come back to Poland some day!

Posted by hennaonthetrek 15:07 Archived in Poland Tagged city # #poland #castle #krakow #miniholiday #aimlesswonderings #dragonsden #citybreak #mounds Comments (8)

On the road to Hell

sunny 29 °C

We definitely were able to do a lot travelling this summer which I am ecstatic about. I am also ecstatic that I was finally able to cross over something from my ever-growing bucket list. That was visiting Helvetinjärvi National Park (Lake Hell National Park), one of the many national parks in Finland. It is situated on the route to my dad’s house and I had driven by many times but never visited. And of course the ear-worm of the day would be provided by Chris Rea. I will add it below so you can enjoy it with me:

Well, I'm standing by a river but the water doesn't flow
It boils with every poison you can think of
Then I'm underneath the streetlights, but the light of joy I know
Scared beyond belief way down in the shadows
And the perverted fear of violence chokes a smile on every face
And common sense is ringing out the bells
This ain't no technological breakdown, oh no, this is the road to hell

Tuesday

We packed our car + caravan and headed towards Helvetinjärvi, it was going to take us between 3-4 hours to get there from home. Driving would be slower than usual us towing the caravan behind us.

Last kilometers where via road so narrow that we were crossing our fingers that we wouldn’t meet anyone. It would be impossible for two cars drive by each other without one or both of them ending up in the ditch. Luckily, we didn’t come across anyone but signs telling us that we would soon be there. Signs that were saying things like “Boar burger in 3 kilometers” or “Coffee in 2 kilometers”.

There we found big parking lot and across the street small cafeteria/restaurant/info where we got our key to the showers and instructions where we could park our mobilehome. Owner also said that the parking lot is popular with caravans since it is closer to toilets/showers but I wanted to be in the “real” caravan park. That appeared to be grove where they had made spots for parking with grovel. We chose a place farthest away from the maintenance building since there were couple caravans already on the places situated closer and the ones in the middle all had electricity which we haven’t paid for. Our spot had too but we thought it to be fair that ones who had paid for it should be able to pick those places nearer the amenities. And I really liked our spot! It would have shade in the morning and sun during the afternoon.

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Restaurant/Reception

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Maintenance building

Almost immediately after we had made our camp it started pouring rain so we headed to the restaurant to try some of that boar. I almost chose to try ostrich but the boar burger called my name. And it was SO good! The owner kept boars and ostriches so the meals there were made of local products! Always a nice perk!

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Ostrich eggs

Evening went nicely playing Scrabble and enjoying camping. And even with only 2 toilets there haven’t been need for waiting, at least not yet. The shower was quite small but it did what it was suppose to and there was enough hot water for us even we being the last ones to use it that day. You just can’t know beforehand in places like this. We once rented a small cabin in campsite in Sweden and the water-heater was so small that 2 couldn’t take a hot shower back-to-back because the thing wasn’t able to heat water fast enough for it. And we did try to be quick! But no problems like that in here!

And one of the best parts was that the internet sucked in the camping site! I know it is a choice to look at your phone, e-mails and social media, but when that choice is taken away from you, you are forced to leave the phone well alone, very refreshing!

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Camping site

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Our camp

Wednesday

We woke up and had a very lazy morning. We made coffee and had breakfast leisurely and headed to the forest tracks well past noon. The route we were taking is called Helvetistä itään (East from Hell). There is Finnish rock/heavy metal band called Kotiteollisuus and one of their songs is also called Helvetistä itään but I am not sure which one came first, the track named after the song or was the route muse to this song, however, if you like that kind of music like I do, you would like the song! And the route looked great too!

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Gate to Hell

But I do know how the name Helvetinjärvi (Lake Hell) came to be. Old story tells that landlord from Ruokkee took a pike from Sipiläs fish trap. Situation broke in to a fight, both verbal and non-verbal kind. After the skirmish, a witch from Sipilä said that “As long as my nails are soft, pikes won’t rise from this Lake from Hell.” Which happened and pikes didn’t take to baits for a very long time.

There are tracks going everywhere and both, now and in yester-years the area has been sparse. Albeit nowadays there might be slightly more people living in the area than back then. Now we hardly felt that we are middle of wilderness, every now and then seeing people walking on the tracks or hearing them talking in the distance. Place seemed to be popular with dog walkers too.

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Signs on the way

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Signs on the way

In the past people walked in the woods gathering berries, mushrooms and firewood and their cattle pastured right along side them. Boats were kept in both ends of the long lakes enabling people to travel longer distances. Tar pits has also been founded in the area.

Along the route was one camping site in Helvetin Kolu which was built in 1920 and youth have been gathered here away from danceless Sundays for years. Or I think they might not do that anymore but back in the day, church prohibited processions which took place at fifth Sunday after Easter, Prayer Sunday. Those processions danced in the fields asking for a good crop. Church replaced those with processions of their own in 4rd century and the dance ban was lifted in 1960. But the “day hut” are still popular place for people nearby.

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Lake near the day hut

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At the day hut

Helvetin Kolu, is a, by Finnish standards, big ravine, and it was the first place in Helvetinjärvi where nature was protected. That was in 1950’s and in 1960’s the nearby Haukkajärvi was protected too.

Helvetin Kolu is northernmost place which you can come across Frullania tamarisciI (its a type of moss). I didn’t know that when we were there, but to be honest, I can’t differentiate one type of flower from other in a good day, so the odds of me finding this particular moss in the forest radiates between slim to none, hah.

We walked by this ravine and I tried to take photos of it but they just didn’t turn out well. All you can see in them is green and gray, the dimensions aren’t visible at all! But in person its beautiful and well worth visiting.

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Near the Helvetin Kolu

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Near the Helvetin Kolu

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Getting close to the ravine

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Helvetin Kolu Ravine

People have travelled around here from early 19th century and its landscapes has starred Akseli Gallen-Kallelas paintings. He enjoyed coming here so much that he even brought his artistfriend Louis Sparre with him, who was inspired to paint the scenery too.

We haven’t been walked for long before I needed to put on some mosquito repellent, there seemed to be plenty of those around here! Also lots of more pleasant wildlife too. Plenty of birds, squirrels and baby-frogs!

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Few of the gazillion photos I took

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Few of the gazillion photos I took

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Few of the gazillion photos I took

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Few of the gazillion photos I took

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Few of the gazillion photos I took

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Few of the gazillion photos I took

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Few of the gazillion photos I took

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Few of the gazillion photos I took

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Few of the gazillion photos I took

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Few of the gazillion photos I took

Apart from the gnats the scenery was beautiful and we enjoyed walking in the forest so much that when we came to turning point where we could have started back to the camper, we chose to take the route which took as deeper in to the forest. In there we found another camping site and a spot near the lake so beautiful Toni decided that we should build a cabin in there.

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One way to get people out of your photos

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Haukkajärvi

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Spot for our cabin

All in all, we walked approximately 10 kilometers or so, and there were some hills too so I would say we had earned the wine with our Scrabble tonight!

Thursday

This morning I was very glad that we had done the Helvetistä itään-track yesterday! We had talked about doing some other route today, or maybe renting a Yurt sauna, but when we woke up it was already too hot to breathe. Maybe I am being a just a bit melodramatic, but I was already sweating after a trip to the toilets and they were just couple hundred meters away. Thermometer reached almost 30C today, so no walking or sauna for us today, thank you very much!

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We did go to take a peek of the Yurt Sauna

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Pier near the Yurt Sauna

I did make us pancakes just to have something to do alongside with my reading and sunbathing. I had American pancakes mix and that might have been mistake. My Muurikka-pan was so hot that the pancakes either came out from it raw inside or burnt outside. Maybe the typical Finnish-kind which makes thinner crepe-kind of pancakes, would have been better, but you know what they say about hindsight

Evening went like the previous ones, playing Scrabble, and some cards and Yatzy too, just to have some variety.

Friday

Today was Bye bye Helvetinjärvi and Greetings Nurmijärvi. Via Hämeenlinna where we met a friend for a quick coffee.

But before that we steered out from the camping site and took a different route from what we came from. The ostrich and boar farm, was just beside that road. We could have come here yesterday for a wee walk, it was just half a kilometer away from the camping site if we would have known it was so close and could be seen from the road.

In Finnish boar is called villisika, which direct translation being a wild pig, so my question to you is, is boar wild anymore when it lives in a ranch? The purpose of this question, no reason, just a sneak peek inside my brains for you.

My dad lives in Nurmijärvi and my gramps have moved in with them so I had a chance to see him too. We enjoyed our evening there, had a BBQ and couple of beers while catching up.

Saturday

Last night dad said that this time we are going to do something because everytime I visit we are just staying home. I don’t mind staying at home at all. But I also didn’t mind our plans for today either, we were going to visit Suomenlinna and I haven’t been there before.

You reach there by short ferry-ride and 800 people live there year-round. It made in to Unesco Word heritage listing in 1991 for its unique military architecture. Building was started in 1748 under Swedish rule, Sweden being scared of Russia and needed a somewhere to place a military. War in Pommern interrupted the building in 1756 and it never continued, albeit existing building was already named Sveaborg. In 1808 Sveaborg, Viapori in its Finnish name, surrendered to Russian troops thus beginning of Russian rule started.

By independence in 6.12.1917, doing with some technicalities, Viapori remained under Russia and Finland didn’t get it back until the Civil War in 1918 when it got a new name, Suomenlinna.

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My dad and stepmom on the ferry

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View from the ferry

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Almost there

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Suomenlinna

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Something yellow

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Yellow is the color of the day

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And more yellow!

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People enjoying their Saturday

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View towards Helsinki

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Sun was there too at times

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Good photo of my dad and Toni if I say so myself

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Sun and sea

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Sun and sea

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More people enjoying their day out

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The wall has hair!!

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Archway!

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New friends

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Windows on the wall

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Flag

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Cafe

We spent lovely day exploring around the island, and had another BBQ when we got back home.

One thing to be said about Nurmijärvi. It is only 30 minutes away from the airport by car. Can you see where this is going?
You would be spot on if your mind went directly to airplanes.. When we turned in for the night, we booked flights to Krakow! 15 hours to your upcoming trip, what a lovely thing to see on your screen when you are making the bookings!

Posted by hennaonthetrek 18:48 Archived in Finland Tagged #summer #boats #nature #castle #travelling #camping #finland #fortress #nationalparks #summerholiday #forest #foresttracks Comments (8)

Zooming in and out from Riga

all seasons in one day 23 °C

This particular trip was supposed to take place in December. During the Fall/early winter both of us were itching to travel and I thought that it would be cool to see Christmas Market in Riga. So I booked us flights. And then covid shut places down, again. We had two options, either we could go and spend the time inside our hotel room or I could move the flights to different dates. Obviously, I changed the flights, and because I don’t have too much time off from work, I moved them to July when I knew I would have my summer holiday this year.
And July is now!
Or, actually it was couple of months ago to be honest, since I am writing this after my summer holiday. But I will do my best to stick on the present sense!

Wednesday

The problem with booking flights months and months before your actual departure when you live so far from the airport than we do is that you can’t check timetable for the trains beforehand, so there is mighty possibility for you needing to wake up before the crack of dawn to get in to your train.

Ours was to leave 5:20AM so we needed to be up just little after 4AM to have enough time to drive to the train station, but we managed, and I wasn’t even my usually morning- grumpy self, I am so much in the holidaymode! Even the fact that even the restaurantcart wasn’t awake yet couldn’t dampened my mood! It did open eventually, and I got my morning coffee, but we had been up for hours by then!

We eventually reached Helsinki-Vantaa airport and headed Lounge. First time for both of us. I wasn’t very impressed of their food selection (just oatmeal, salad and bread with very limited options to top it) but drinks were good, not wide selection, but what was there, was good and they had comfy seats and big windows to look at planes.

In Riga, weather was hot. Or maybe not hot exactly, but we were overdressesd in jeans and t-shirts. We hopped on the bus to get to our hotel, from the airport. Hotel Monte Kristo was located in the Old Town, near the Central Train Station. At reception we were greeted by lovely Anna who made us feel welcome. Our room was nice too, we had yacuzzi and breakfast nook. I haven’t actually never been in a hotel room this big before!

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Our Hotel

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Breakfast Nook in Our Hotel

We quickly changed jeans in to an shorts and by the time we reached hotels terrace it was already raining. We contemplated our options while having beers. Change of clothes before dinner was the conclusion we got.
We wandered in to Old Town in our search for a food. Which we founded too, but doe to our early start, we were understandably tired and didn’t explore much after dinner. This is starting to form in to a bad habit, these early nights in on a holiday!

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Old Town

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Inside of the restaurant

Thursday

Breakfast was served in a very beautiful but small-ish, stonewalled room in the hotel’s basement. Buffet-style service was set in to the far end of that room and nearest tables were situated just by the setting forming kind-of bottleneck in to the service-area but food was still good and luckily there weren’t too many people around.

Central Train Station took some looking. We didn’t realize at first that it was inside of Shopping Center but we found it, got our tickets too and even needed to wait for our train! Our destination was Turaida Castle and Google was our friend while looking for transportation. Which meant (what I didn’t think about at the moment) that it (google) showed us Terminus of the line we wanted (Valga) and not the stop we needed to exit the train (Sigulda). Fortunately, Toni started to track our progress in his phone, if he weren’t, we would have travelled all the way to Estonia! Back home train ride like that (Riga-Valga, appr. 4 hours) is somewhere around 30-40 euros and in Latvia it was under 6 euros, so we didn’t even have that “Hey, this is way too much”-feeling while paying. So, thanks to Toni, we hopped off on the right station which was Sigulda, not Valga (!) and walked near-by bus stop where we got our ride up to the Castle. Which wasn’t too expensive either, 70 cents per person.

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At the Riga train Station

Turaida means The Garden of Gods in the old language of liv-people. The castle estate is quite big and it is situated in the Gauja National Park, you could easily spend a day exploring the place and still you would have new things to see the next time you visit. Point of all old Livonian castles and estates were to collect taxes and the estates grew around the castle. In here there are church and several other buildings besides the castle.

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At Turaida

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At Turaida

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In the Turaida Museum...

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...sadly all the descriptions were in latvian...

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..so I just took pictures!

Albert, the Bishop of Riga started building the castle in 1214, when there stood only Livs wooden stronghold. Its defensive system was built during the 13th century and the Archbishop often used the castle as residence and shelter. And for good reason, the castle is built on a hill and surrounded by wall. One path leads to the castle which walls are in elongated formation and steep hill being the backdrop of its longest side making it hard to conquer.

Doe to careless gunshot the castle took fire on 1776 and all its wooden structures were burned and the castles military significance being lost in the last century and the castle being now private property those burned structures weren’t restored.

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Turaida Castle

In 19th and 20th century castle got the eye of the historians and eventually its remaining buildings, Main Tower, Semi-round West Tower and West Block were restored and opened for the public. Turaida Castle is one of the most archeologically investigated medieval castles in the Baltic region and its visitors are glad for that. Or at least I am. You are able to climb to the top floor of the Main Tower. The stairway is steep and narrow so I kept whistling every time I started another flight so, if there were someone at another end, they would know that someone is coming. The stairs were so narrow that you wouldn’t be able to pass anyone and dark enough so you wouldn’t see if someone was coming or not (the tower being round and the stairs built on its flank). But the view of River Gauja winding its way through surrounding forest is worth the climb!

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Beuatiful views

The estate is vast and the castle being located in the farthest corner we started our exploring from there, just quickly peeping inside the church bypassing the path towards the Folk-Song Park. From the castle we backtracked our steps and headed to the Park.

Turaida is said to be full of folk songs, song about work, nature and fatherland and it was the emerging place of Singing Revolution (1987-1991) which lead to the independence of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The Folk Song Park is a project of sculptor Indulis Ranka, and there are several of her sculptures in the park which was opened to the public in summer 1985. The additional Folk Song Garden was made in 1988 when it was clear in Baltica Folklore festival that more space was needed and amphitheater.

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Folk Song Park

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Folk Song Park

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Folk Song Park

Both the Park and the Garden made for a lovely walk.

I really had thought that we could include some of the forest trails in the National Park and Turaida Castle in to this same visit but I just didn’t realize how vast the Castle estate is and how much time it would take to look around so when I spotted that Krišjānis Barons Trail headed outside from the Folk Song Park and in to the foods, and it would be only 300 metres long I persuaded Toni to take it with me. Why I needed to persuade him, you might ask. Well, he wasn’t too keen to head downhill heading trail which seemed to be consisted partly, if not only, from stairs when we had just come down from 27 meters high tower. But we did it anyway, because of my awesome map reading skills (can you just smell the sarcasm in the air?), convinced even Toni that you could make a shortcut back to the Park if you wanted.

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Barons Trail

Krišjānis Baron was one of Latvias most beloved writers being remembered as father of the Dainas. His lifetimework includes collecting and publishing
217 000 Latvian folksongs in eight tomes called Latvju Dainas. So, you could say that he is Latvian equivalent of Finlands Elias Lönnrot who made Finlands national epic, Kalevala. But that’s just me boasting that finns have some famous authors too! Dedicating his lifework to Latvian folksongs, he is definitely earned a Trail named after him in this particular park. The trail is said to be in place of the exact path which Baron used walking through Turaida valley on his travels.

But there weren’t any shortcuts and we ended up walking in total 712 step of stairs going down the hill and back up again. As far as my nature trail experiences go, that was just a wee bit boring. Just stairs, but maybe mr. Krišjānis Baron was a big fan not only of literature but of stairs too.

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Tree Circle

However, we found another nature path across the Park of Mr. Barons Trail and there weren’t but couple of stairs. Well 200, but who’s counting? What there were even more than stairs, was gnats. Whenever I slowed down to take a picture or look something they were on me like piranhas. Among gnats, there were two springs and lot of frogs in that forest, and signs telling you stories about the forest. Me being surrounded by bloodsuckers I just snapped photos of these signs to read later.
There were these little tasks for you to do while being in the forest like trying to walk with your eyes closed (because in olden times you didn’t have streetlamps and you would still need sometimes travel during dark) or wash your face in the spring (ancient belief tells that it makes you more beautiful). I did climb on the stone and mimic a bird, that was the only sign I did read in the forest. I did perfect impression of species called homo sapiens, there was someone else whistling in the woods too!

One story told that in these woods lives evil spirit who misguides you on your travels. The sign told that you can see this spirit if you bend over and look the trail behind you between your legs. If you don’t see anything, you can bravely go onwards. It’s a shame that I read this particular sign on the bus going back to train station, now we never know if there was evil spirit on our tails or not!

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Evil Spirit?

Despite our lack of knowledge about lurking evil spirits, we did emerge from the forest near the amphiteathre where some sort of happening was starting, there were people and even cameramen with their vans! We didn’t stick around to see what was happening though. This being yet another beautiful, sunny and very warm summerday and our mad rush to get away from those bloodsuckers (okay, okay, not a rush, just very fast walk!) was starting to make us a bit tired so we started our way towards the bus stop.
We would miss the old sauna building and the herb garden but that couldn’t be helped! I was itching to sit down and have some tea! Albeit on our way to the bus stop I couldn’t resist the urge to take a couple photos of the herb garden! It was interesting, there was explanations how you could use the plants there were! But my craving for tea couldn’t be persuaded, not even by nature remedies!

The bus stop was another matter. On our way to the Castle, the bus didn’t stop to leave us at the bus stop but, dozen of meters away from it so we weren’t 100% sure would the bus stop by the bus stop or somewhere else. There were road works going, and couple of military personnel supervising the traffic. One of the military guys knew where the bus was stopping so after waiting a while, we were on our way to get me that tea!

The train ride back wasn’t as eventful as the ride there and after getting back to Riga and stopping for a while at the hotel we were back on our feet and looking for food. We have got a tip for a good restaurant which may or may not be open. The tip was about the restaurant being good, not it opening times. Opening times were google vs restaurants websites. Google said it to be closed and their own websites stated that they are open. When we got there, we noticed for my chagrin that google was right. So, we found another place to eat and got back to hotel to try that yacuzzi!

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Little detour in Old Town

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Little detour in Old Town

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Me on old town

Friday

One of the first search results when you google “Day trips from Riga” is Jurmala. It consists of 25 kilometers long strip of beach and several towns. We had planned that yesterday and today we would be touring further away and our last days in Latvia, we would roam around Riga and since yesterday we were in Turaida, today we would visit Jurmala. The weather looked so grey when we left that neither of us even packed a bathing suit even our destination being a beach.

Our train journey was another adventure. I wanted to see the Turtle-sculpture and I even had an address for it, which I gave to Toni. If you wonder why, he is my navigation system. So, we hopped in train, this time we got tickets to the right station and hopped of on right one too. Toni opened the google maps again to notice that we were 10 kilometers away from the Turtle. We had two options, either wait for another train to get us nearer, or walk. We opted to walk and see what’s there besides sand. We found a path which went through forest and ended in the beach. And guess what we found there? Sand. And seagulls. Even witnessed one fight (among seagulls).

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On our way to the beach

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On our way to the beach

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Nearly there

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Nearly there

The beach indeed, were very long and we were practically at the very end of it. I could see how this place would be on a sunny day, packed with people enjoying sunbathing and swimming. On our walk we encountered couple runners and saw even few kids brave enough to go in the water in this weather. It wasn’t cold exactly but I would still prefer to leave swimming for sunny days!

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Beach Fight

Walking maybe 3 or 4 kilometers and it was time to stop on the first beachside restaurant and have a little powwow if we were actually going to walk all the way to the Turtle. As we were contemplating this, girl from the next table started to chat with us. She was from Finland too. She had ordered fries, that being the only thing the guy from the counter knew how to do. Summer trainee perhaps?

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Back at the train station

After coming to conclusion walking taking too much time, we departed and headed towards train station. Via train it didn’t take long to us reach Majoris, hometown of that infamous Turtle. And one of the, if not the most beautiful train station I have ever seen, sitting right next to water. Town itself was very picturesque too! We found the Turtle right there where it should be. I tried to find story behind this bronze statue but all I got was that turtle represents longevity and had been symbol for Jurmala since 1995. Acquainted with the Turtle we were ready for something to bite and there were plenty options to choose from.

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Majoris

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Majoris

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Jurmala Beach

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Good Day Mr. Turtle!

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Beautiful Majoris Train Station

Happy in one of the many patios in town I opted to try something traditional for Latvia, stew with bacon and peas. Flavor was good (you can’t go wrong with bacon), but texture a bit dry. I also learned afterwards that Christmas had come early since it is traditionally served during Christmas, hah.

I had seen on google maps that there were Aussie backpacker bar situated near our hotel, so back in Riga we went to check it out. And not in vain, It, was quirky and awesome! They had hippie van parked inside and sold beer out of it. I sat a while on the windowsill (don’t worry it was sturdy enough!) writing postcards and watching one bachelor group and their shenanigans.

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Aussie Bar

The bar was two-storeyed and upstairs they had boardgames. I spotted Scrabble among them and Toni agreed to play with me, even the game being in English. Playing in Finnish we are quite equal but he knew that my English vocabulary might (okay, most likely, hah) triumph his. There were two set (or maybe even three) of tiles mixed in the same bag so we divided them and used only ¼. We might very well still be playing if we hadn’t. Toni was so pleased to realize that he does know words and are able to use them! I knew that all along but this is one of the perfect examples of famous Finnish humility! So strong that it can even obfuscate oneself.

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Evening walk

Saturday

On the agenda today was to find some Giant Snails which I had read about from my friend Sarah’s blog. Albeit the blog post was written few years ago, so they might not be here anymore. About these snails. They were part of this exhibition Art needs space. Dozen or so snails were dropped around the city, and our hunt started where Sarah had last seen them, Ratslaukums Square (Town Hall Square) and Līvu Laukums / Kaku nams (Cat House).

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Kaku nams

First part of our search was in vain, and when it started to rain, we headed for cover. Which meant of course beers and and some games. When rain just kept on coming, we ordered some appetizers to share and just enjoyed being.
I asked our waiter had he seen any snails around, and he had. He had even moved them on couple of occasions while partying with friends. One of the things about these snails was that they moved, you see. I am not sure if they had some kind of wheels or were they light enough to carry, I didn’t think to ask and now its bugging me.

Though, last time he had seen one wasn’t recently, but he was happy enough to give us directions where was the last sighting. The Hunt continues!

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Looking for those Snails

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No Snails here

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Is this how you search for Snails?

Our quest took us to harbour and area where was food- and drink-booths and tables scattered around. I was little bit sorry that we had already eaten, I would have liked to try something but just wasn’t hungry at all. Luckily there were just enough room for one beer. The guy at the beer booth did know that there weren’t any snails around anymore so that was that. I had still had a nice day hunting them!

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Nice outside sitting area at the harbour

Sunday

This morning we searched post office. I want to mention sending postcards because I thought that Latvian stamp system was bizarre. They had different stamps to different countries which wasn’t odd itself but what struck me peculiar was that it cost more to send postcard to Finland than it was to Australia! Who doesn’t see the peculiarity in this I want to remind you that Finland is under 700 kilometer away when it is over 13 000 kilometers to Australia.

This was also our last full day in Riga and I had a date with Rita. We met in Newcastle VT Meet and she had time to come to visit me. She knew a lot about her country and Riga and told me stories as we walked around.

Churches were everywhere and one of the churchbells had said to start to ring everytime unfaithful wife walks bye, so women started to avoid walking there just in case.

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Infamous church bell

We peaked in one of the museums where she pointed me a gondola hanging from the sealing. In Venice this gondola had sailed the same route every day for years, decades even, and Russian artist wanted to made its life more interesting by taking it to longest journey of its existence. Now it is taken apart and hang from the ceiling of this museum on its way to the stars.

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Sailing to the Stars!

Rita showed me where the street level had been on the dawn of Riga, almost 2 meters lower than they are now! She knew that during siege of Riga in 18th century, local girl fell in love with one of Swedish soldiers camping outside the city walls. One night she was left on the wrong side when the gates closed for the night and she got caught and was killed. Her ghost is haunting the place even now always during full moon.

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Ghost at the City Wall

It seemed to me that Rita enjoyed showing me around her former hometown and in particular telling me about its architecture and art nouveau style. If you would ask me what she told me about the buildings I could tell you that you weren’t allowed to build taller than 5-storeys, during soviet occupation many of the more valuable buildings were taken under soviet ownership and after Independence state of Latvia got ownership of these buildings. Old owners could get them back if they had sufficient proof of ownership. I could also say that one particular architect had designed several of the buildings and that that art nouveau have had some inspiration from Helsinki. A lot of fine details had got also lost during soviet era, for example the cats in Kaku nams are not originals but replica. Also many details which Rita told me got lost inside my head, never to be seen again, thats me and my brain fro you, hah.

During our wandering, or to me it was wandering, Rita knew all along where we were going, it started pouring and we needed to take cover but luckily the day was warm and the sun started to shine soon after the downpour.

We said our goodbyes after cup of coffee and I went to see what Toni was up to.

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Me and Rita in the rain

At this evening we went to see new Minions Movie in the Theatre. Before you get to say anything, children movies got good humor for adults too. Or it could be just us but we enjoyed it a lot. Originally, we couldn’t choose and tossed a coin between Thor and Minions, getting Thor. In the theatre, it said that it was 3D which neither of us enjoys so we switched it to Minion. At the beginning of the Movie there were group of well-suited young men who got up and said something in Latvian, which we of course didn’t understand. I would have liked to know what that was about! After the movie, everyone started applauding, it would also be nice to know if that was common after every movie or did it had to do something with the boys with the suits? There’s a puzzle to keep me up at night!

Monday

Still had a bit time between breakfast and our flight so we got to see Riga’s Central Market. Having nothing to buy we just wandered around a bit and took bunch of photos before we had to leave.

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Central Market

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Central Market

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Central Market

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Central Market

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Central Market

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Central Market

Posted by hennaonthetrek 08:14 Archived in Latvia Tagged #beach #oldtown #fortress #turaidacastle #sigulda #trains #jurmala #turtle #riga Comments (6)

Near-death experiences and Teaparties in Newcastle Upon Tyne

overcast 19 °C

Thursday

Next day the train ride to Newcastle was short and our hotel just across the street from the station. My room weren’t ready though, so when Josephine and Colin asked if I wanted to join them to Jesmond, I of course agreed to go. Even if I didn’t have a clue what or where Jesmond is.

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Enjoying our time in Jesmond with Colin and Josephine

Jesmond turned out to be one of Newcastle’s suburbs and besides it’s many restaurants and pubs there is Jesmond Dene. It’s a public park in Ouseburn- river valley. There is petting zoo, walking paths in the woods, Old Mill and waterfall. This now serene park where people spend leisurely time, were home of various mills in 19th century and were basically industrial site. Even the waterfall is manmade, not that you would notice things like that, you feel more like a character from Jane Austen novel walking on the paths surrounded by forest.

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In Jesmond dene

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In Jesmond dene

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Jesmond dene waterfall

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Jesmond dene waterfall

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Me at the Jesmond dene waterfall

When we got back, my hotel room where ready.

At the evening there were Welcome Dinner at the Bridge Hotel, which I sadly didn’t take any pictures of. The building from outside is quite picturesque. Sarah’s husband taught us a bit of Geordie dialect. People living in Newcastle area are called Geordies and their English is VERY hard to understand. Or to me it was anyway! It is fun to listen though.

After the dinner, back at the hotel I was too tired to try my bathtub and went straight to bed.

Friday

Next day was a trip to Tynemouth, town nearby. Karl had asked me previous night if I were interested in renting a bike again, since he was going to go there by bike when others were taking metro. Kristi was going to come with us and we had made a date to meet this morning and find the bike renting place together. And it did need some finding, basically we only find it by accident. Kristi went to ask one man if he would know where the place is, and it actually happened to be his bike renting shop! He said that we should have called or e-mailed him beforehand and that it was lucky he were there at that time since he mostly works upstairs.
The place was “beneath” a bridge on the lowest floor of that building with teenytiny sign outside. He only got 3 bikes and no locks, since he didn’t like to encourage people to leave their bikes unattended. Lucky for us, Karl had two locks and one was “long” enough that we could chain all our bikes together. Does people really rent bikes only to bike? Don’t they want to explore castles, priories or even take a rest and have a cup of coffee at any point? Isn’t the experiences as important as the exercise (and fresh) air is!

Our biking path went along Hadrians Cycleway which for the most parts follows Hadrians Wall. Our goal was to bike from Newcastle Upon Tyne to Tynemouth and back, but the actual Wall starts from Carlisle. Romans started building their wall 122 AD and it was 73 miles long crossing the island almost from coast to coast.

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There's Kristi!

Our ride was around 10 miles long to one way (another 10 miles back). The purpose of that wall was to separate Romans from the northern barbarians and it was in use for 300 hundred years and gained World Heritage Site status in 1987. Most of the cycling path went away from the bigger roads so it made a pleasant ride.

Except for the part I nearly get hit by a car while crossing a road (I did have a green light!). I don’t know which one of us the incident scared the most, me, the driver or my biking partners who witnessed it. I know my heartbeat took a while to slow back down to normal! But, all’s well that ends well, we did reach Tynemouth without any more near-death experiences and even when the day was grey the only rain we got went by when we were nicely inside of the pub called Salty Sea Dog, Karl’s choice. He liked the name, and who can blame him?

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Me, Kristi and Karl keeping rain at Salty Sea Dog

We got in Tynemouth a bit earlier than rest of our posse, and after nice teabreak we were able to find others walking around sites of the town. We opted to see the Tynemouth Priory and Castle which were the most noticeable thing in sight. We had our bikes with us and since it was prohibited to chain them in the fence nearby, we got private entrance when they opened the castle gates for us so we would be able to get the bikes inside. That was cool, you could almost imagine how it would have been like 13th-14th century when the fortification was build.

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Tynemouth Village

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Tynemouth Priory

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Tynemouth Priory

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Tynemouth Priory

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Tynemouth Priory

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Tynemouth Priory

After we got back to Newcastle and our bikes returned, I still had some time before tonight’s dinner so I did something I had never done before. I make it sound fun and exciting, don’t I? It was one of those small pleasures in life. Diana had bought Dutch Stroopwafels from home and let everyone to have a taste. I had asked her to write down the name of the treat so that I could look up from google that would it be possible to make those at home, and she gave me a pack! So now I was going to do something I have never done…I would make some coffee in a hotel room! Whole new experience, exciting, right? Hah. My big windows were towards train station so I had lovely coffee&stroopwafel moment watching people come and go.

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Stroopwaffels

Dinner was yet another rowdy affair, the place had beautiful glass windows which unfortunately didn’t fare well in photos. We had some program during our dinner too, one member of our group is a magician and he did some tricks to us. I am not that big fan of magic shows but I liked Jon’s because he had good humor in it!

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Our merry group inside at the dinner

After dinner I was having a date with my bathtub! One of my new friends Krista, brought me a bathbomb when she learned I had never tried one.
Like our show in dinner, my bathtub was magical too, just not in a good way. It powers consisted solely on ability of making the water to disappear.. I manage to make the plug keep only when I pressed the bathbomb bag against it with my foot, and after a short while the position became uncomfortable so I gave up. Talk about perfectly good bath going in to a waste, and the bathbomb. I got over my non-succesful bath by consoling myself with chocolate! And wine.

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Now I know what bathbomb is...

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...and how pretty it can make your bath!

Saturday

While others were having a walking tour, I was dedicating my morning to aimless wandering. First, I stopped in Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society, sadly they didn’t have any events going on but I am bit of a book geek so I enjoyed my peek inside the library. The walls were full of books in two floors. Talk about heaven.

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Lit and Phil Society...

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..and all those books!

Next, I headed to Newcastle Castle, old Medieval fortification. First castle on the place was motte-and-bailey type of structure. I haven’t heard this term before but these had apparently been typical in Europe. Motte-and-bailey is situated in higher ground (=motte) and it has a walled courtyard (=bailey) or courtyards. The castle had been built on top of several mounds (higher ground) and each of them had been a made of wood.

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Details inside of the Newcastle Castle

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Details inside of the Newcastle Castle

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Details inside of the Newcastle Castle

The castle that remains are made of stone and it consists of Castle Keep and Black Gate. Castle Keep being basically a stone tower and Black Gate the gatehouse. On its location it has been used for defense the city from 1172. Castle Keep was built in 1644 and it was where the last troops surrendered to Scots during the English Civil War.
Since that it has been used among other things, for example as prison and a pub. City slowly built around it and sadly after the railway, only these two buildings (one tower and the gatehouse) remains of the old structure.

As I was roaming around, I bumped in to the walking tourers, their tour had led them to the Castle too! But since I haven’t paid for it, it didn’t feel right to tag a long and listen to their guides stories. But I do have one of my own! As I was in the Castle Keep looking around in one of the rooms, there were lots of old tales about the area. One of them being about small boys who were made to work as a chimney sweepers. Doesn’t sound so bad if you don’t think about it too hard, young boys in a need for money and work to do to earn it, right? But many of them got stuck inside of the chimney and slowly suffocated to death. As I was reading this story I heard this sound, like a clatter. I was only person in the room and got spooked before my brains kicked in and I noticed the open window which was rattling in the wind. Spooky timing for the wind right when someone is reading a horror story, and true one at that. Coinsident?

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Protector of Newcastle up on the Castle

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Protector of Newcastle up on the Castle

From top of the Black Gate there is beautiful view over Newcastle, the city, river and its bridges. I spend quite a while there taking photos (couple of those above) and after that I didn’t have much time to visit any other attractions like Victoria tunnels, so I crossed Swing Bridge to take a little walk in the other side of the river. And like any normal girl, went to a graveyard to look some old graves, the oldest I could find was dated 1841. In Tynemouth Priory oldest was from 1781. In both places there probably were even older ones but the time had made some of the markings impossible to read.

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Bridge

Back to “my side” of the river, crossing Tyne Bridge this time. When it was constructed in 1928, it was world’s longest single span bridge. There were beautiful three-headed lanterns on the side of it. Some of the poles had hooks and I was wondering if they were used as a lantern holders.

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Bridge

I had just enough time to get my train ticket back to Manchester before Traditional English Afternoon Tea. Back home I had tried to get the tickets from internet, didn’t work. I always got message that “we will send you a confirmation e-mail” which I never got and the App didn’t work outside UK, I even asked customer service. I wasn’t in the mood to try a lousy app now if it just might work this time, so I walked straight to Train Station to use the ticket machines.
Or almost straight, after I got down from Tyne Bridge, I started to follow the signs towards Train Station and at one point I was sure that the sign was pointing in the wrong direction. I have a horrible sense of direction but the feeling was so strong that I had to believe it and started to walk slightly off from what the sign was telling me. Since I was on schedule, I wanted to make sure that I was going on the right direction so I asked one lady, and guess what, I was!

Henna 1, Signposts 0! Mom wouldn’t believe this (I inherited my sense of direction from her)!

Back to the mysteries of English train tickets..The machine didn’t work either! I clicked where I wanted to go and when, then it gave me timetable, I clicked the train I wanted and got notification basically telling me I can’t get this train. So, I picked another one, and another one and even tried the first train again, same result. So, huffing and puffing I walked in to the ticked office, got the train ticket, told that the machine nor the internet doesn’t work and walked out.
Outside of the ticket office there were women making a survey about train tickets, where did you buy it, why there, that sort of thing. So full of righteous indignation, I told this women too that the machines sucks and I would have very much liked to buy the ticket easier way but just couldn’t. Talk about timing, I usually say that I don’t have time for things like that (in my experience usually when someone comes to ask you bunch of questions, they are trying to sell you something).
This time I had something to say so I answered her. (I have to clarify, if someone got the impression that I was being rude or a jerk to either the lady working at the ticket office or the one making the survey, I know that my difficulties weren’t their fault so know that I was polite giving my opinions. Hope that it helps tourists that comes after me!)

Quick pitchstop in the hotel and I was on my way to Vermont Hotel, where we were going to have our tea. Amelie was already waiting for us outside. When we started chatting, I realized that even when she was there on time, she had the time wrong. I felt instantly bad because I had arranged this and forgot to update the new time to Facebook. I had made a group chat, but didn’t think to double check that everyone got all the messages since I had to change the original time doe to the hotels timetable. All well that ends well, luckily and we were seated to our table, everyone on time and in good spirits. Albeit me still feeling bit guilty!

Anna, Dutches of Bedford is said to be the one who started the tradition in 19th century. She was constantly hungry during the afternoons, between lunch and dinner so she ordered her servants to make her sandwiches and tea at 4 PM. After Queen Victoria heard about this, Dutches’s small ritual became a grand thing and 1880 it was a nation-wide affair. In recent years the tradition gone global and in most countries people have heard about it, yours truly, included. It is said that Traditional Afternoon Tea is a light food enjoyed with tea but as for me it was a banquet. Sarah was only one from England in our teaparty and when asked which tea she wanted she opted for Earl Grey so I went with the same (can’t go wrong following Englishwomans lead while in England!) when Nancy, Krista and Amelie had fruit tea instead.
The “light” food was very good! We had 3 different kind of sandwiches, 3 different kind of scones and 3 different kind of pastries. After that none of us were hungry, me not even during dinner! We also learned from Sarah the proper way to add jam and cream to your scones (jam first). All this glory was intitiated with a glass of prosecco!

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Our Teaparty

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At the Teaparty

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All those goodies were for me and Amelie!

Tonights dinner was at our hotel so I had a short walk downstairs! This room also had beautiful colorful windows which were impossible to get a decent photo of! But the dinner was nice, I got to try famous Yorkshire pudding, it was okay. And we got the big reveal of the next year meeting place. It’s in Tromssa, Norway. I have visited Norway before but not that high up, so I am hoping that I am able to get time off from work to go!

Sunday

We headed to Northurmberland. First stop was in Bamburgh Castle. Castle has been home for Armstrong family from 1894 but it has been the guard to the Northumberland coast for thousands of years. Some even say that it is the site for Sir Lancelot’s castle from the Legends of King Arthur. Walking around the site you most definitely could feel that is part of the history, how could you not, standing beside a structure that has stayed mostly intact for several centuries?

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Bamburgh village

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Our Group in front of Bamburgh Castle

Other, fictional story (besides King Arthurs) including the castle is a story about Lady Margaret, whoms father married an evil witch. And just like any other story, the witch is jealous to the fair maiden for her beauty. Her brother, her only protector (Who knows where the father was?) leaves to travel across the sea so the witch turns this beautiful princess in to a dragon, where comes her nickname Laidly Worm of Bamburgh. Her brother comes back to slay the dragon that threatens his future kingdom, but instead of slaying the beast, he ends up kissing her (You just got to love the logic in fairytales!) causing the spell to break and Margaret turning back into her human form. This point the king must be dead, because the prince turns his evil stepmother in to a toad and becomes a king himself.

Fairytales aside the castles first written (non-fiction) reference is from 547 AD, when castles were still made from wood, when Ida of Bernicia captured it. From that day onward the fortification has taken part in many conflicts, Vikings raiders had roamed nearby, rival kingdoms attacked it..During the War of Roses (1464) it was the first castle in England destroyed by canonfire, its stone-structure only been made in 1095. By 17th century the castle was in ruins, up keeping of the place being so expensive. Being shifted from the crown to private owning it took hundreds of years before the castle had been remodeled in to its former glory.
After last heir of Foster family, Dorothy inherited the place, got married and died, her husband set up a charity to restore the castle in her memory and support the people on the village in early 18th century. It’s been a school, hospital and coastguard station among other things before Lord Armstrong bought it in late 19th century and was the one who set up in motion for the castles last renovations before he died in 1900 and never got to see it when all the repairs were complete.

Now the castle is open for public and has been used as a filming location for various movies and series, Harry Potter and Downton Abbey included. And if you have the wish and the money you can even rent the Clock Tower to stay in like Rowan Atkinson is known to do, or at least that’s what our guide said. Sadly, you weren’t allowed to go explore the accommodations though. That would have been very interesting!

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Bamburgh Castle

From the Castle it was short bus ride to Lindisfarne, known also as Holy Island. It is a piece of land which becomes an island every time when the high tide comes. Apparently, several cars need to be rescued from the causeway despite warnings in a year. We were with an expert guide, Robert, so we wouldn’t need to be worried about that. And during the low tide it is even possible to walk to the island by using the Pilgrim’s Way. Pilgrims and monks use to visit the islands using this way long before modern roads were invented. That definitely would be something I would be interested doing if having the time!

Being on the island felt a bit like my visit in lighthouse-island of Tankar, near home. That peacefulness you can nowadays find only when you are “stranded” somewhere. In here the tides ensures that you can’t leave, in Tankar, Ms. Jenny is sailing only once a day. Unlike Tankar, this particular island has been raided by Vikings, being, first place they landed on England. Besides the Priory the Vikings raided, there is Castle, Church and Winery among other things.

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At Holy Island

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At Holy Island

It had started to drizzle and the wind was somewhat chilly so after listening Roberts stories outside the churchyard I felt that it was time to be somewhere warm for a while, and lucky for me, I wasn’t only one feeling that way. Despite of our guides excellent knowledge of the island after visiting St. Marys Church, I tagged along with Karl to visit one of the pubs, where Fergy already was. Josephine and Colin also stopped by for an while and after beers, me and Karl took quick photo walk towards the Castle which almost caused us miss the Mead tasting. There wouldn’t be harm if we would have missed it though. Turned out that I don’t like mead, too sweet for me. If I understood right, mead has been made in here by monks from 7th Century and it is famous worldwide. Kind of sad (my disliking) if you think about it, there must be something about the mead if it’s been worth making for generations and generations!

This evening we had one last dinner before most of the group either go home or continue their travels, some were even staying on Newcastle for a little while longer. I were one of those unfortunate ones who had to head back home. Jon were one of those who were going to keep on travelling for a little while longer and was heading to York so I got company on my train ride.

Monday

I had one last breakfast with Josephine and Colin before they sent me on my way with promises to keep in touch.
Train ride went quickly to York, we played some cards and Jon kept me company on York where I had little while before my next train to Manchester.

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At the York Train Station

I arrived Manchester airport with plenty of time and good that I did. The lack of waiters, waitresses and hospitality workers in general were prominent. I had to wait 30 minutes outside of restaurant even to get in, they were so understaffed. The service was still friendly and even when they were plainly busy, my waitress remembered to ask about my allergies many times (I don’t have any, but if I would, I would be pleased that they are well noted) and kept addressing me “beautiful” (Good day beautiful, Are everything okay here beautiful, etc. ). We don’t have that custom in Finland, in here you might not be greeted at all, or with very grumpy nod or “Hello” but in England it is one of the things I liked about the most, even the clerks in the shops would say “Hello love” or “Good day dear”!

Posted by hennaonthetrek 11:26 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged #nature #castle #england #sighseeing #biketour #medieaval #meet #meetings #bamburghcastle #northumberland #holyisland #lindisfarne #jesmond #jesmonddene #tynemouth #tynemouthpriory Comments (14)

Splendid York

sunny 20 °C

This trip was mostly about meeting people and I wanted to give it a title like “It’s all about Meetings” or “It’s people that count” but I don’t usually write about other people so I tried to aim the focus on something else too, so that you wouldn’t be reading just sentences like “I liked her/him a lot” or “She/he was nice”, it seems that my adjectives all were on the positive side, but I did really like a lot all of the people I met and chatted with on this trip. When I eventually got over the fact that I am not use to writing about people I did enjoy writing this, partly because I have missed writing and partly because I had such a great time!

Let me start with telling you how I ended up going to meet these people I have never met before. Few years ago I was searching travelling sites on internet and stumbled upon Travellerspoint which I ended up joining, obviously. One of the features I liked was blogs, which I ended up reading, and after a while, again, obviously, writing myself. One of the blogs was written by Sarah, whose blog I occasionally commented on. She had been involved with another travellingsite before TP, which members had done annual bigger meetings around the world, in various locations. When that site shut down, some of the members kept their annual meetings going and I was fortunate enough to get an invitation to years 2022 meeting, people from all over the world would be attending.

And that’s how I ended up travelling to York and Newcastle upon Tyne. Meeting new people and seeing England, which I, a former huge Emmerdale fan, has had on my Bucket List for years, I was eager to go!

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York

Monday

In the spirit of this trip, I already met new people on my way there, first on the plane and then on the train station. The flight went fast playing bullshit with this bachelor group I met on the plane, even if it turned out I am rubbish at it.
At the Manchester train station, I had some time and as I was waiting for my train, I started chatting this guy who was going on the same direction than I was. And again, the train ride went smoothly when you had someone to talk to.

I hopped off at York, where was going to be a pre-Meet before the actual Meeting. Josephine and Colin were staying at the same hotel than I was and they were kind enough to meet me at the station. I had met them before in our groups monthly Zoom-meetings but I was still a little bit nervous of this first face-to-face- meet. Turned out I was nervous for nothing, both of them are as lovely and welcoming on person too! The short walk to our hotel went quickly. Everyone I met made me feel right at home with this group.

My room in Georgian House & Mews- hotel were small, I could just and just get my bed fitting in the photo if I backed myself in the farthest corner I could get, and that weren’t that far. But the hotel staff were very friendly, breakfast was freshly cooked and it felt like being in my own apartment since entrance there were from the backyard of the hotel. You basically walked through the hotel, out from the backdoor and there were row house kind of arrangement in the backyard. I liked that. I treated myself with wine and peanuts while I was settling in.

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Entrance to my hotel room

Tuesday

Next morning, we had a coffee date where I met rest of our pre-Meet-group. We were 10 in total. One of the guys, Karl, had brought his own bike with him from home and asked if I would like to have company on my ride. I was going to rent a bike. And that’s how I got company.

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Our group in Cafe 21

We might have had some miscommunications of the length of our ride, and we ended up in Beningbrough Hall which was 9 miles from York. Not far for me but Karl had already done 15 miles ride this morning..Later he claimed that I am an witch who can transform kilometerss in to an miles. I hope that is not my only magical power, seems a bit useless, hah.

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Seen on the bike ride

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Seen on the bike ride

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I see, I looked, I goofed around

The paths were mostly off from bigger roads and easy enough to follow. Apart from couple “Oops, should we have gone that way”s. The weather were absolutely perfect, sun shining from almost cloudless sky. Not what I had expected from England, and during the first part of the day I was jealously looking at Karl’s shorts. My leggings were a bit too warm for the weather. But that stopped after I started to really feel the sun. I haven’t packed any sun cream and I would be painfully aware of that for days! My side-buzz, neck, chest and arms really took the sun in and showing it by changing the color. But atleast my legs were thankfully unaffected, if I would have had those shorts with me, they too, would have developed the same beautiful color of red.

Entering fee to the Beningbrough Hall was a bit steep. You couldn’t enter in the Hall but just the grounds, because they had electricity renovations starting inside. The grounds had beautiful gardens and walking paths but 12 pounds to see just them was a bit much. We paid it anyway.

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Beningbrough Hall

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Beningbrough Hall

According to Beningbrough Halls website, almost nothing is known about history of the building. The Estate were inherited by Ralph Bourchier on 1556 who build the first house. House, the second house, that has sit there for over 300 years was built by John Bourchier in 1716. He had gotten the inspiration of its architecture from Italy, where he had spent lot of time. This electricity, which prevented us from going in, was added in 1890.
National Trust acquired Beningbrough in 1958 and this former family home gets nowadays appr. 150 000 visitors per year roaming around its halls and estates, which are apparently famous for, among other things, its lavenders, or so the lady at the entrance told us. We tried to find those notorious flowers but in vain and after asking about them, we were told that they wouldn’t bloom until later in the summer. That taught us herbology.

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Beningbrough Hall Gardens

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Beningbrough Hall Gardens

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Beningbrough Hall Gardens

As we were on a holiday, after we got back to York and had returned my bike, we headed to get some beers before heading to our hotels.
At the evening whole group headed to dinner together, others had been on a York walking tour.

Wednesday

Next day when others went to River Cruise, I headed to do some wandering on my own. My hotel was close by Shambles which has been filled with butcher shops in Medieval times and to prevent the sun spoiling the meet hanging on display, houses are built close together. Now it is a shopping street and said to be inspiration to Diagon Alley in Harry Potter books. That might be the reason for the couple of Harry Potter- themed shops located there. I don’t wear themed clothes (band t-shirts and hoodies don’t count!) nor need any knickknacks but still wanted to visit The Shop That Must Not Be Named and was pleasantly surprised by it. It did have clothes and knickknacks but the movie soundtrack playing on the backround made a great ambience and if I wouldn’t be travelling light, I would have bought some candles (candles are heavy!). I did buy a postcard to send to my boyfriend Toni.

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The Shambles

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The Shambles

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The Shambles

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The Shambles

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The Shop That Must Not Be Named

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Candles that almost travelled home with me

With other postcards to write too, I spend nice while in the pub and got to try one of the traditional dishes, steak and ale pie. Menu said it to be award winning pie but I think I would have liked the chicken and mushroom pie better, the pie was good but not great. I also visited book store and several souvenir shops, wanting to buy something totally useless to Toni. His birthday was coming up and when asked, he said that he didn’t want nor need anything so I got him solar operated British Guardsmen among other things, like chocolate with his name on it, and socks with Union flag on them.

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Award winning Pie

I was going to visit Clifford’s Tower but somehow, I totally forgot its existence and ended up in the City Walls instead. I got up from Bootham Bar and got down from Monk Bar. Gates up to York City Walls are gathered all around the city in walls sections that are still intact. They are the longest town walls in England. Later I found out that I could have made a circular route following the walls but since I didn’t know that at the time, I got down. This section of the walk had great views of York Minster, great gothic structure that is one of Yorks best known attractions. I thought going back the same way (up in the Walls) the very true possibility of getting lost being in my mind but I had time for it (getting lost I mean) so I followed the wall back to Bootham Bar on the ground level. I got “lost” only once on my way back to my hotel when I got sidetracked by beer garden.

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Bootham Bar

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York City Walls

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York City Walls

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View to York Minster from the Walls

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Sidetracking Beergarden

Tonight’s dinner were early one, because we were going to go to an ghost tour after it. The restaurant was beautiful but obviously understaffed. The waiters/waitresses were basically running around trying to get everything done. Food was good and company too, I met Sarah, the women who invited me here, for the first time and like everyone else I have met, she too, were lovely and very welcoming!

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Dinner in Stonegate Yard

It is said that York is England’s most haunted city, or at least that’s what our guide for the Ghost tour said. He (the guide) were really good. He talked animatedly while he told us many ghost stories about York while he walked us by the places the stories were about. One was about Cliffords tower, yes, the one I totally forgot about. I didn’t get a chance to go up since it was getting late.
I think the story about it is more sad than scary but the tower is said to be haunted by several jewish people who made suicide in there while trying to avoid a mob.

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Diana and me waiting the Ghost tour to start

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Our Ghost tour Guide on his element

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The tower that almost avoided my camera (Clifford's Tower)

I think the scariest story he told us was about this store selling shampoos etc. At the very first night (of the shops) there were huge racket coming from inside and when people went to see what that was, there were body-washing merchandise everywhere! They cleaned the place up, got all the soaps out from the ceiling, walls…And the next night..Same ruckus and explosive shampoo bottles..And to this day no one knows what did it. It is said to be either Vikings who got killed by the English, or pissed off old granny who got slaughtered because she saved a black cat from wrong side of the walls (people thought she was a witch because she never got married and because of the black cat).

Towards the end of our tour the light was starting to fade and light drizzle fall. The guide couldn’t have anticipated the drizzle but I think the starting time of the tour is purposefully late that the dimming light will add to the spooky atmosphere. I didn’t get wet though, since Diana was nice enough to let me share her umbrella.
I were sorely tempted to visit the most haunted pub in York but we had train to catch next morning so I opted bed instead. Maybe next time..?

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Weather going back to the hotel from the Ghost tour

To be continued…

Posted by hennaonthetrek 18:06 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged #england #york #yorkcitywall #ghostour #biketour #medieaval #fortress #meet #meetings #beningbroughhall #shambles Comments (19)

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